Empirical and Rational Normativity


There are Humeans and unHumeans, disagreeing as to the validity of the Treatise’s ideas regarding practical reason, but not as to their importance. The basic argument here is that the enduring irresolution of their Hume centric debates has been fostered by what can be called the fallacy of normative monism, i.e. a failure to distinguish between two different kinds of normativity: empirical vs. rational. Humeans take the empirical normativity of personal desire to constitute the only real kind, while unHumeans insist that only the objective rationality associated with categorical morality can provide reliable normative guidance. In turn, the failure to recognize the dual nature of normativity has helped engender motivational obscurantism: as essentially causal notions, motive and motivation obscure the rational processes that lie at the heart of deliberation and choice. Once it is realized that normativity takes two different forms, each with its own distinctive role, it becomes possible to mediate if not mitigate the differences between Humeans and unHumeans. Choice will be the key to understanding practical reasoning, and its analysis will provide the basis for a belief/desire model that upends conventional wisdom regarding motivation and desire.

Author's Profile

Gerald Hull
State University of New York at Binghamton


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